Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.02.2003

Quality Management: Investment in on farm storage pays dividends: Holding on can reap a rich harvest By Brad Collis

Simon (left) and Malcolm Doolan: playing the market.

UNLIKE THE MAJORITY OF growers who rush to get their crops off and into the bulk handling system as fast as possible, northern NSW grower Malcolm Doolan finds it much more profitable to hold onto his grain and play the market.

It has required a sizeable investment in on-farm storage over the years, but it allows him to respond directly to peaks in demand; capturing the highest prices throughout the year following each harvest.

"Basically we can now store whatever crop we've harvested and then decide what to do with it, " he says. "I often don't finish delivering one harvest until I'm about ready to put headers into the next crop. "

Between harvests he is in effect running a grains storage enterprise, with built-in identity preservation. Many of the millers and feedlot operators pay extra for the Doolans to hold the grain until it's needed: "That alone can almost pay for the storage, " says Malcolm.

Malcolm's father Victor was one of the first growers in NSW to install bulk storage more than 40 years ago and since then it has developed into a large and sophisticated operation. Malcolm and his sons, Simon and Angus, crop about 10, 000 hectares. Their on-farm storage now totals 18, 000 tonnes, with the capacity to clean, dry and segregate according to variety and quality.

"That's the great advantage with having your own storage. You can customise your deliveries and that's what the millers want. 1 someone phones up and says they need 14 per cent protein wheat, I can supply it, " says Malcolm.

The initial incentive for the Doolan's on-farm storage was to get the crop off before the seasonal storms that occur through October and November.

"If you are going to grow any kind of wheat you just can't afford to have it downgraded, " says Malcolm. "Good storage with aeration means you can harvest green with the moisture around 15-16 per cent, and dry down.

"To dry from 16 to 12 per cent costs $3-$4 a tonne, but it means we're selling grain that's as good as it can be. We can guarantee the quality of what we're selling. "